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how was calculus invented?

rate of change etc

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5 years ago

So why was this new and complicated form of mathematics invented? And how does one manage to come up with such an abstract idea? Newton was foremost a physicist, and in his day, he tackled many difficult issues in physics, probably the most famous of these issues is gravity. Newton is known for developing the laws of motion and gravitation, which undoubtedly led to his work in calculus. When trying to describe how an object falls, Newton found that the speed of the object increases every split second and that no mathematics currently used could describe the object at any moment in time.

Another tale of Newton’s reasoning is that a colleague of his asked “Why are the orbits of the planets in an ellipse?”, to which, Newton took some time to ponder, and came back with the fact that the ellipses are, in fact, sections of cones, and armed with calculus, he could describe exactly how these sections behaved. These were the types of questions (in conjunction with the fact that Cambridge University -where Newton studied – was closed due to numerous outbreaks of the plague) that drove Newton to expand on mathematics and develop the concepts of differential and integral calculus.

One may ask “how does one invent a new form of mathematics” this answer is quite simple; Isaac Newton forced relationships between physical phenomena and the mathematics of the day. Through trial and error (and quite a bit of ingenuity), Newton saw the need for a whole new math, and this came from his conceptual understanding of physics. More simply, Newton already knew the concepts of calculus because he was describing gravity and planets; it was a matter of writing it down and showing proof that it works.

Nobody would claim that Newton wasn’t a brilliant man, but calculus has been refined for over 300 years with many features added (like limits, which make everything easier), meaning that no longer does one have to be a genius to understand it. I want to make a point that, a student who has a concept of algebra already knows more than Newton did when he invented calculus, and in fact, calculus was born out of what we know as geometry and algebra. Math students of the present day should not fear, calculus is not just for the elite, not just for the genius, but for anyone who has the time and discipline to learn it. I fight for equal treatment of all mathematics, let’s take away the stigma of calculus!

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